Featherstone Rovers and Exeter reveal cross-code alliance

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The Independent Online

Featherstone Rovers, the epitome of the traditional rugby league club, have formed an unlikely cross-code alliance with Exeter.

Featherstone Rovers, the epitome of the traditional rugby league club, have formed an unlikely cross-code alliance with Exeter.

The two clubs, both in National League 1 in their respective sports, are already exchanging ideas and could extend that to players, according to Rovers' coach, Gary Price.

"It's in its infancy at the moment, but their coach has been to have a look around at Featherstone and I've taken him through all the back-room stuff," said Price. "I'm quite open-minded about it and will go to have a look at what they do in pre-season. I've already noticed a couple of their players on TV."

The link came about when Exeter's coach, Ian Bremner, met the Featherstone chairman, Steve Evans, a former Great Britain international, through business.

"There's a lot of synergy between the clubs," Bremner said. "We're in similar situations, one level below the top and with part-time professionals."

Bremner envisages players moving in both directions between the two clubs. "If Featherstone is a bit of a culture shock for our players, it won't do them any harm," he said. "It's a very positive environment and I found it very stimulating."

The hottest property in the game, the 19-year-old New Zealand back-rower, Sonny Bill Williams, has ended any hopes of him joining a Super League club by signing a new, two-year deal at Canterbury.

St Helens were among the British clubs willing to pay Williams more than he could get in Australia, but the player, who also had an offer from the All Blacks, has decided to stay with the Bulldogs, at least until the end of the 2007 season.

"I'm happy here and I want to repay the club," he said. "I'm not interested in playing rugby union at this stage of my career."

The Kiwis' Test against Australia in Brisbane next Friday, which Williams will miss because of an ankle injury, will be refereed by Britain's Russell Smith. He is currently refereeing in Australia's NRL, with a view to a permanent move.

Smith's colleagues in Britain will be exercising their authority in subtly different ways, following a meeting at which Super League coaches aired their views. Among the changes will be referees "taking account of the context of the game" before awarding penalties for dissent.

The Salford assistant coach, Scott Naylor, has been issued with a formal written warning about his future behaviour after being found to have used foul and abusive language to match officials.

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